Today we woke to a quintessential Pacific Northwest day. As the light rain came down, we loaded our Zodiacs to head out and explore English Camp on the San Juan Islands. The fall foliage colors were exploding as we landed and headed ashore. We were blessed to have our expert Naturalist Sharon Grainger explain the significance of the beautiful ornate totem poles on the shoreline. Carved by the Salish Coast people, these poles honor the tradition of reef netting in the area. Contrasted by the modern English Camp settlement structures, these poles represent and honor those that called this place home for over 10,000 years before ships sailed here.
Turning to the camp we were greeted with 200-year-old big leaf maple trees in a brilliant display of a variety of fall colors. We hiked though these old growth forests, and with leaves crushing underfoot, we explored countless mushroom and lichen. Some adventurous souls climbed to the mountaintop and were met with a sweeping view of the island chain we have been sailing through.
Back on ship our remarkable galley team had a steaming lunch prepared to welcome back those dampened by the rain. After lunch, Jim Thomas presented in the lounge and displayed a variety of beautiful Native American pieces he has been gifted over the years. He shared stories and wisdom that brought tears to the eyes of those cuddled up in the lounge as we sailed to our next destination.
With the anchor set, we loaded up our Zodiacs and set a course for American Camp. The sun broke through and smiles were plentiful as the warmth enveloped us. Landing at Third Lagoon we had a breathtaking view of the National Geographic Venture with harlequin ducks, hooded merganser, and bald eagles. Aerobic, forest, and bird hikes allowed us to explore our south end of the San Juan Islands. From red fox to Cooper's hawks, there was no shortage of species to identify. Binoculars were raised and cameras clicked as we continued through this incredible temperate rainforest. As we reached beachheads, we followed our guiding principles and collected trash washed ashore to leave our world better than we found it, while constantly spotting new birds.
Later. we enjoyed an amazing Zodiac ride to Whale Rock, where we saw both harbor Seals and Steller sea lions. The sea lions were so curious that the females displayed for us in the water as the males fought for dominance on the rock haul out. We cheered as they explored each of our Zodiacs and gave us ample time to photograph.
Once back onboard, we enjoyed an amazing array of appetizers as we warmed up with a cocktail and settled in for an amazing recap given by our undersea team to show us the beauty that exists below the surface we sail on. After a belly full of delicious food we came back to the lounge and learned about the remarkable history of trade beads by Sharon Grainger. Sharing the stories of the people that have honored these lands for centuries is nothing short of magic. With that we drifted off to sleep to dream of those adventures yet to come.